Crash was an accident

Senior government sources told Kathimerini yesterday that the collision between a Greek and a Turkish fighter jet over the Aegean that appears to have resulted in the death of the Greek pilot was an accident and not the fault of the Turkish pilot. According to video footage examined by defense and government officials, the Greek F-16 had attempted to approach the Turkish jet and the photoreconnaissance plane it was escorting so the pilot could read the markings on the plane. This move requires the two aircraft to be some 300 meters from each other. The Turkish F-16 attempted to block the Greek jet, at which point Captain Costas Iliakis accelerated to get closer to the photoreconnaissance plane but collided with the fighter plane instead. As the Turkish jet was above the Greek one, the Turkish pilot was able to eject safely. The pilot was rescued south of Karpathos by a Panamanian-flagged ship and refused help from Greek rescuers who boarded the vessel, telling them he was not hurt and wanted to be collected by Turkish forces. Senior government sources denied reports that the Turkish pilot drew his side arm when the Greek rescuers approached him. Ankara and Athens have sought to maintain calm in the wake of the crash. Sources told Kathimerini that the incident would have a major impact on the upcoming meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers, Dora Bakoyannis and Abdullah Gul. They are due meet in Istanbul on June 10 and sources said that ways of defusing tension between Greece and Turkey will dominate the agenda for their talks. However, Greece warned Turkey that it should not take advantage of the good will between the two countries. «Greece’s policy toward Turkey is sincere but it is by no means a blank check,» said Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos.